Re: Documentation Freeness (Re: Packages to be removed from hamm)
On Sat, 30 May 1998, Jules Bean wrote:
> In the context of formal documents, it is *not* appropriate to allow
> modification without restriction. An appropriate formulation for
This is also true for software. This is why the DFSG considers unmodified
source to still be free if explicit permission to distribute diffs is
provided by the license.
> However, I do claim that common sense dictates that different rules apply to
> documents. In the most trivial case, for example, it is illegal to modify
> and redistribute (almost) any of /usr/doc/*/copyright - but we distribute
I would suggest that the law requires that the same rules apply to
documents as do to source code. It is this application of law that allows
software to be copyright material.
I have been talking with several lawyers that I know about copyright
issues with respect to Free Software and this is the structure that I
understand from those discussions.
A. Copyright is intended to protect two major issues:
1. The copyright holder is the only authority on the use of the
copyright material. As such the copyright can thus never be
divorced from the copyrighted material.
The intent of this authority is to keep others from claiming
the work as their own.
2. The copyright keeps others from changing the wording or content
of a work and claiming that it is the original authors words.
It is this portion that makes Unmodified Source a requirement.
B. The copyright applies to the specific textual material created by the
This has two consequences.
1. The author is empowered by the copyright to license the use of
the copyright matherial only. This implies that such license
can not control the use of "modified version", as the copyright
does not apply to them.
2. Attempts to apply the copyright to the modified text may, in
fact defeat the copyright. A copyright that claims to cover any
and all "additional text", not written by the author, may make
the copyright unenforcable.
C. The author, via the copyright, has the authority to issue a use license
governing what others may do with that copyright material. Distribution,
use, and redistribution, are all easy to control in this way. Allowing
modified source to propogate while requiring the original copyright be
applied is a dangerous maneuver for the copyright.
To me it is clear that changing the author's "words", even with his
permission is a tricky operation and should be done very carefully. Only
in the software development world to we have the tools at hand to manage
I submit that unmodified source is the only way to protect the freeness of
the software it applies to.
This should make it clear that documentation (which we would all agree
needs to be "correct") should, therefore, be left unchanged by anyone
beside the author. (except when supplied as a diff file, of course).
The DFSG requires "explicit" declaration that associated diffs are
permissible. I'm not sure that this is necessary, as it isn't clear that
the original copyright can, in any way, cover this modified material. It
seems that it can, in fact be copyright by the person making the
modifications, giving them the right to license its use in any way they
This has some intersting ramifications for the GPL, as this License wishes
to imply control of other copyright material that it is associated with in
certain ways. Others have pointed this out as a "non-freeness" of the GPL.
Personally, I see it as an interpretation problem.
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